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July 6, 2020

Episode 035 - Craig Benner, CEO of Accretive Media

Episode 035 - Craig Benner, CEO of Accretive Media

Today's guest is Craig Benner, Founder and CEO of Accretive Media.

Accretive is responsible for connecting brands with the right customers by leveraging over 175,000 digital screens across the country.

Their I-SEA methodology combines expertise and technology, keeping measurement at the forefront of the conversation for their clients. 

Craig knows what it takes to get the job done and to keep clients coming back for more. 

If you've wanted to learn about how programmatic digital out of home works, then this is the primer you've been looking for. Craig comes from the digital marketing world and brings intangible experience that makes understanding big, complex ideas easy for anyone.

To connect with Craig, you can find him here on LinkedIn...

Check out Accretive Media at...

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Use promo code INSIDER for 10% off your first purchase!

As always, best place to find me is on LinkedIn at...

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I read the soft intro and, and then we'll just start cooking. Let's do it. Cool. Alright. Uh, creative. Got it. Today's guest is Craig Benner. Craig is a CEO of a creative media and the creative media is responsible for connecting brands with the right customers by leveraging over 175,000 digital screens across the country.

Their IC methodology combines equal parts, expertise, and technology, and puts measurement at the forefront of the conversation for. Now one for buzzwords, Craig is a straight shooter who knows what it takes to not just get the job done. Right. But to get it done in a way that keeps clients coming back.

Craig, thanks for being here. Thanks Dan. Appreciate it. Appreciate you having me. So you're joining us from the west coast today. I see the, uh, the, the infamous Dodgers hat on. Tell us a little bit about how you got into out of home. Was it, was it something that you just lived your whole life, um, eager to become a part of what's your origin?

So, so it's, it's funny. I actually got into, out of home by accident completely by accident. The last, the last 15 years I've been in digital, digital advertising. And, uh, I was, I was with a company called buy-in and, uh, for the last 11 years, about 11. And by, it was the, was kind of the successor of specific media who started behavioral targeting and, or was one of the pioneers of behavioral targeting and retargeting.

It was one of the, one of the early ad networks and I've been there forever and we bought my space. You know, we bought a Delphic. Uh, we bought a video ad network and, you know, I ran a large sales organization. And I was on a plane two, three weeks, a month, uh, running a bunch of brunt of running a bunch of offices.

And then in 2016, we got acquired by time, Inc. And that was kind of the, that was the, that was the holy grail. And in 2017, I left in mid 2017. And, and my idea, the, the plan was to take about a year off. And, and just decompress, you know, enjoy, enjoy kind of the fruits of my labor. And three weeks into that year long sabbatical, I get a phone call from a buddy on the east coast.

And, um, and he says, Hey, he was a real estate guy, nothing to do with advertising whatsoever. There's a real estate guy. And he says, he says, Hey, Craig, um, um, I'm thinking about investing in this company. Um, but, but they make money with advertising. You know, they do real estate, but they make money in advertising this like digital out of home.

Um, can you take a look at the investment docs and let me know when. And I said, sure, I don't know anything about digital out of home advertising, but I know how people make money and advertising. So I took a look at the docs and, you know, the, and the, and the documents were like, All had to do with digital transformation and programmatic digital out of home.

And, you know, they were raising money to hang more screens, uh, along the Eastern seaboard in the, in one of the major DNAs. And, and you could tell, you know, we take for granted and digital specifically, we take for granted how nuanced programmatic, the word programmatic. And they, they were trying to, they were trying to hang like 60 screens and in one of the major metros and I was just like, okay, well, I, I love the concept, but 60 screens in one demo or one geo is not exactly going to make national programmatic advertisers excited, but this concept is very, very cool.

So I started thinking about it and, and you could tell the brief was like, you know, they had read a couple ad exchange articles. They've read programmatic for dummies, but there was a lot of gaps for the train dye to the, to the layperson. It didn't, you know, it sounded fantastic, right? There was this automagically just, this money was going to come and demand was going to come and all this stuff, but so the train diet didn't make all, all this much sense.

So I called back my friend and I said, Hey, good news, bad news, bad news is, um, you know, the scale doesn't quite fit. I don't think you should invest in. The good news is now I'm excited now. I think we should do this thing ourselves, but I think we should hang like 10,000 screens in the top 10 DMS. Uh, can you raise like $20 million for me?

You handle real estate, you handle capitalization, all handle ad tech, all handle monetization, and let's go nuts. And, and he said, whoa, I just wanted your advice. Like pump the brakes. Um, and three weeks into my. Year long sabbatical sabbatical is over, get back to work, back to work. And my wife and kids were like, what about all these vacations and trips?

And yeah, not so much. So that was kind of the original conception of a creative was, was originally we're going to hang a bunch of screens and we're going to, we're going to build this infrastructure and all of that. And I started doing some research and I talked to, you know, I talked to people at, you know, at Vistar at, at clear channel at, at Outfront, at GSTV at, at a lot of the major brands.

And it become, it became very evident to me that there was not a supply problem in digital, out of home, there was a demand problem. And one of the issues was. Well, as, you know, you don't buy what you can measure to a certain extent. That was always what I learned and, and, um, you know, you feed what you can measure and, um, and that, that was all philosophically.

That's what that's, what we were taught in digital is we wanted to create more accountability and the more accountable we could make our investment, the more ROS we could create, the more money that we could command from our advertising partners. So. Um, that, that was the way I was, I was looking at things anyway, um, from, from a digital out-of-home standpoint.

So I went back to, to my buddy and I said, Hey, you know, change the plans. We don't necessarily need all the supply. Our focus should be creating value. It's always creating value, but creating value for advertisers through showing, shoot it through, demonstrating how. This supply and this format, this big beautiful format can, can drive results.

And, and with my experience in digital and, uh, my experiences and identity resolution and identity management, I knew that that, that the challenge was going to be basically translating consumers in the physical world and seeing, and actually seeing boards and then being able to. Measure the efficacy of those exposures on things that they care about and measure in the digital world.

But this is easier said than done, right? There's a huge transition. The translation layer that needs to take place to be able to say, Tim was physically in front of this 14 by 48 foot board. And then Tim, didn't just, didn't just walk into a store. We're using mobile location data, but Tim is actually. The laptop ABC 1, 2, 3, and Tim actually went to that advertisers website.

So to do that, you actually need, what's called deterministic consumer profile data, and you actually need identity. You need office gated or anonymized PII, just to be clear, like this doesn't exist for out of home when you're kind of approaching it, right? Like there's not a done for you plug and play solution.

That you can just integrate. Nope. And this is, this is 2017. Not that long time ago. We're always talking about. Yeah, no, no. One's talking about this, you know, programmatic digital out of home is bruh. Like it's brand new. I mean, I worked, it's still brand new and no, one's no one's talking about this. So, you know, and when you think about, when you think about who has the data assets to actually execute against this, because you need, especially in this privacy climate, you need consumers that have opted in at a census level.

Um, that have multiple devices. So there's about eight companies in the world that have access to this type of data and that's Facebook and that's Amazon and that's Google and that's, you know, it's Verizon, it's Uber, maybe. Um, but then there's the legacy MySpace data with the Meredith with the time and, and there's, and there's some of that data.

So with that said, okay. So if we can combine geo temporal, mobile location data, basically mobile location data with deterministic or consumer profile data, then you have movements and you have, you have effectively profile data. And with those two things with privacy compliance, You can connect those dots.

And just for anyone listening that doesn't know what deterministic data means, Chris crystallize, what that means for the lay person. It basically means opt in registered, logged in user base data. So people email on my phone. Yeah. But people, people that have that have effectively, uh, given their permission.

To, to basically logged into a computer program, like a Gmail, like a Facebook, like a, whatever, um, that have, that have declared their identity. So, so with that, I can say, Hey, this device is logged into to Tim rose email. This device must belong to two. Yes. Yes. Now there's now you can also opt out and it's very clear and controlled opt-out.

So with that, with that, now we went in. And we went and we basically, uh, we, back in early 2018, we filed a provisional process patent for the process to combine deterministic consumer profile data with mobile location data for the targeting and measurement of digital out-of-home. So what that allowed us to do is target target using that data.

So we can effectively target tune in data website, data retard. Offline sales data, uh, vehicle purchase data, all of those things at scale deterministically, but then more importantly, because again, it's a broadcast medium. So targeting is not as important as measurement, but more importantly, we can measure the effectiveness of those of those exposures.

So. All of this altered place over the first six months. And, and we basically said, okay, this is what we have. This is what a creative stands for is. We're not just going to be an aggregation of a bunch of inventory of other people's inventory. We're going to try to recast the industry to create more addressability and more accountability for the industry.

So we can command more spend because the only way that the industry is going to grow is if we can say, Hey, that other bucket where you're spending $85 billion digital or. TV or, or anything. The only way we're going to carve into that budget is if we can show that we can, we can drive just as much efficiency and effectiveness as those others.

And we can't, if it's all probabilistic survey based, sample-based guessing on completely different metrics. So that was the thesis and that's, that was the basis of, of the, uh, of the company. And we had no clue, no clue whether the results would be good or terrible because it had never been done before.

Sure. And, and the first people that, uh, that signed up were was, was ticketed. And in, uh, in April of 2018 and they weren't doing it for a branding campaign, they wanted to sell some damn tickets. Exactly, exactly. And that, and that was, we launched in February of 2018 and we, uh, and in April of 2018, We, uh, they ran a campaign for 2018 draft pixels on websites, just Dallas and in a normal situation like that, it would have been like, Hey, let's get a sample size of a hundred.

Let's run some surveys. Let's see if those a hundred people, which are part of our panel, went to the website. It was like, no, we scraped 473,000 device IDs over four days. And we're able to reconcile like, like a hundred thousand device IDs and like 70,000 of them went to the website or something like that.

Wow. Go ahead. And, and, and we, and we, uh, so it wasn't like small samples. It was census level data. It was real, it was, it was real, um, you know, you know, the, the, the, uh, The web visitation rate. Cause it's, you know, you're not clicking on billboards, you know? Uh, so the visitation rate was like three and a half percent, which is ungodly.

So we're like, okay, how does that compare to people that didn't see the ad we need to do w methodologically, it needs to be test control. Right? So we said, all right, let's, let's figure out what, just a regular web visitation rate, you know, the city's buzzing. It's the draft. People it's almost, you know, football season, people are thinking about football.

So we ran a, um, a controlled study for people unexposed and it was like around 1%. So it was, it was basically, you know, 200 times, three times the effectiveness by virtue of seeing those big, beautiful ads. So it validated. And then we said, hold on. Okay. Well, why don't we do it in another market? Which, which just to double check our work, just because we, we were in awe.

So we went to DC, you know, Cowboys, Redskins, same division, DC, DC, DFW, very similar market size and, um, same exact results. The control group was like one point. Percent web presentation. Right. Um, so it was just, it was just, it was magical because, you know, when you have that idea and you're like, really hope, this works really hope.

This works really helped. This works and then it works and then it works again and then it works again. And then since then it's, you know, we've done. We, we, we did a deal for, for halo, had some live experiences for the, for, for the gaming across like four or five markets. We did that. Um, we've done some CPG stuff, uh, where we've, where we've driven CBG sales.

We've done, you know, brand studies where for a luxury auto, where we saw like a 40% lift in awareness, like w we've we've done, we've seen. Uh, uh, Nordstrom, like there are just so many, whether it's Nordstrom, whether it's, um, uh, Choctaw, uh, casinos, where, where we did, they got like a 4% web visitation rate.

Um, and we want immediate post award for best use of, out of home, uh, creative, uh, and that didn't even take into consideration the results that we were getting. So it was just, it's just case study after case study, after case study. Um, of, of this format works when deployed properly and measured properly, even against, even against metrics that you wouldn't necessarily, um, attribute to this format.

And that's how we're going to change hearts and minds. And ultimately that's how we're going to command more staff. I, I love all of those stories because it's kind of realizing that. It's been here all along and now we just found it. We just found that thing going through a box of old stuff. We've always loved out of home, but oh my gosh, it drives a ton of results.

And now that we can measure for it, it's going to attract ad dollars from people who write in the digital space where it's measured one way. This is how I measure it because each business is in a, is in a race, right? A race to acquire more customers at a lower cost. So if you can use. A medium, like out of home where the cost per thousand is a fraction of what it might be in direct mail or other types of digital media.

If I can spend less than acquire more customers than my competition, then I'm going to win. Right. I'm going, I'm going to push them out. There's a lot of folks that talk about programmatic and different platforms and things like that. W w what's the difference? Like what makes a creative different than, you know, maybe somebody else that's a competitor.

Well, it's, you know, it's access to unique data. It's access to, it's a measurement methodology. That's, that's proven, that's differentiated. Um, you know, it's funny, you know, a lot of people talk about data-driven digital out of home. Uh, just to talk about, to talk about us, if you go to data-driven doo h.com, um, that goes to a creative media website.

Like investment. Yeah. You know, we, we, we own the service mark on data-driven DOL data-driven deal. So we've been thinking about this for forever. Um, so, you know, it's it's and again, our ambition, we're a small company, right? We're we're lean we're we're we're our ambition is not to just advance what we're doing.

We want. We know that if we do what we think we can do well, uh, the industry wins and if the industry wins, then we're going to, we're going to realize the halo effect of that. So, so, you know, when, when we talk to the DP AA, when we talked to oh, AAA, when we talked to those folks, it's not, it's not just about a creative it's about, we want.

You know, we, we want the broader view. We want 4% to be 7%. Not because we want to be a massive company, but because we know that we will draft off of the success of the, of the broader industry, if we can all collectively win. So, so, I mean, from a competitive standpoint, there's, there's a lot of, kind of coopertition right now.

Um, Uh, the SSPs somewhat worked together, the, the platform for work together. Um, you know, the, even the specialist agencies are trying to build some, some tack, but still work with some of the SSPs and DSPs it's it's. Um, Yeah, it's a, it's, it's becoming a little more complex, but I'm hopeful that we all remain collaborative to ensure that we're all rowing in the same direction to ensure that we all have a, we should be getting more money from brands because we work mentality.

You think that the complexity of the ecosystem helps hurts. Is it just indifferent? What needs, what needs to happen? Is it consolidation? Is it education? Where do you think that that gap is? It's always educated. Yeah, it's, it's always education. Um, it's one of the biggest issues in, in adoption of new technology is, is resistance to change.

Um, and that's always been the case in any industry. So how, the way you combat resistance to change is through education. Um, and. Our style of education is through test and validation is the results. Um, but you can't glean results without trying. So it's, it's kind of a dual pronged. Hey, just throw a little bit of money at this test validate and then grow, you know, crawl, walk, run type, type approach.

Um, But you need to do that with an open mind. If you have a closed off mind, there's nothing you can do anyway. So we encourage, you know, we, we encourage people, even if it's just a modest budget, um, to, to try. And, and if you don't like the results, go back to what you were doing before. If you, if you do like the results.

Great. What, what we get nervous about is, um, is sometimes when. People get desperate, they'll stretch the truth about capabilities and, and that everyone gets hurt in that scenario because it becomes a feature battle and a capability exaggeration battle, and that's that everyone loses credibility in that situation.

So, so we focus on. Hey, this is what we can do. There's a power. There's an inherent power of no. If people ask us to do something, we can't do, we're going to be honest. We can't do that. And if someone else can, we'll say, Hey, ask them this, this question, that question and this question and the chances are, they probably can't either, but at least, you know, and if they can and they fail, you know, I'm, I'm, I'm hurt.

I get hurt by that too. And so does the. Sure. Right. Cause then you have to do twice as much work. Maybe it's the first time of brands considering, you know, programmatic out of home. And they've been promised this bag of goods. It doesn't quite work out. It may have still worked, but if it doesn't work in alignment with the expectation, now there becomes distrust.

And now the next guy has to work twice as hard to win back. What should have been, uh, somebody loyal to, to do an of. Yeah. Like, like it's, it's funny. And sometimes you just need to be practical about things like, like for example, um, when we, when we started getting some of these results, results, um, you know, people were just like, wow, how are you getting these results?

And, um, and, and we just flat out, so we had to be very transparent with methodologically and just, Hey, here, here's, here's exactly how we did this. And, um, and. We had to explain, like in very practical terms, why we thought those results, why we were getting those results and you would just see the light bulbs come on and be like, okay, well, if you think about it, and I actually wrote this in a, in a byline of a while ago, I was like, I was like, if you think about it, if you're just a random consumer and, and you see a 14 by 48, Foot massive, big, beautiful creative.

Do you think that will be more impactful in as far as recall, as far as response, as far as any of those things, then a one inch by half inch, tiny little creative that is likely 2000 pixels below the fold that may or may not be served to a human. Which do you think of the two we'll have a better response rate.

And when you break that down, you know, people start to get it. And then, you know, I've asked the question, you know, somewhat rhetorically and granted just to the aspiring salespeople here only do this to friendly people. I'll ask brands, I'll say, I'll say, how does it make you feel to know that you are spending more.

On fraudulent, digital than you are on legitimate out of home. Oh man. But it's a great perspective. So, uh, and, and I had the opportunity to, uh, to guest lecture this digital analytics class in my own mater. Being the out-of-home guy. The first question I had to ask a room full of 20 somethings who are spending their parents', presumably their parents' hard-earned money on a, on a digital marketing degree.

I just asked the question of how many of you use ad blockers and half the hands in the room went out. And I thought that there was a beautiful articulation of irony here that here are professional marketing students who are actively blocking urea. And that segwayed into a conversation about out of home.

And I've got a young lady who's a Tik TOK influencer, which made me feel ancient. Cause I'm like, what the hell is a Tik TOK influencer? Here's a young lady, who's a Tik TOK influencer. And she starts going on and on about this out-of-home campaign for this local vape shop that she sees every day in the colors are bright.

30 seconds ago. She just said she blocked her ads online. And now she's telling me about a high rate of recall for a brand that's highly relevant for her. And she's somebody who can leverage her platform to influence a lot of people very quickly. That's power of, out of home, right out of, out of home.

It's um, you know, I love hearing those things because that's it, it's, it's telling. I mean, I, I love digital when it's done. Right. Anything is anything that's done, right? It's, it's all about media mix optimization. All of the research shows that when you can get, when you can get a heterogeneous mix of different exposures with different creative messages, recall, and effectiveness goes up.

So. Out of home as part of that mix should be, I'm not, I'm not coming on here saying it should be 30%, but I'm saying four to 5% is, is negligence. Reason when game, right. It's not zero sum because we're pulling it from other people. It's not going to like back to your point. It's a cooperative environment where we all win by gaining market.

Yeah. Yeah. So there, there's a reason why apple, you know, apple, one of the world's most beloved brands spends about 25% in out-of-home of their, of their measured media. You know, it's, it's the brands that win, um, spend over index heavily on. Absolutely right. And we don't need to reinvent the wheel, just, you know, comp copy what really successful smart people do and make it, make it work for yourself.

And I love that's a great, it's a great point about apple. What are you working on right now? I mean, it's still early days for creative, but, uh, certainly the social distancing environment has accelerated timelines for some and delayed some for others. What's, uh, what's going on in your world. So, you know what we continue to work on, on, uh, on, on data integrations, on screen integrations on more creative utilization of screens, our, our venue mixes that have changed significantly over the last couple of, uh, over the last couple of months.

And we're working on a couple on a couple of kind of stealth, um, travel related things that, that we may press release over the next month or two. Um, which, which should be interesting. Um, So just, just bigger, bolder things that, um, that will, that will be the nice, a nice marriage of kind of the art and science, whereas we've, we've focused more on the science side.

Um, but then we've seen when, when the, when the creative side has done. It makes the science side a lot easier. So we have such a deep appreciation for well done, creative, customized creative, um, all of our media owners, partners, all of our data partners. Um, You know, and, and we're, we're doing a lot of, a lot of work on the, on the consumer privacy side too.

Like, we gotta make sure that we're always putting consumer privacy and health first, all of that good stuff. So it's a lot of, a lot of, a lot of irons in the fire. Sure. It sounds like all good things for anyone that's looking to stay tuned with those updates. Where's the best place to do that. Uh, creative ads.com um, is, is, is the website where we'll update LinkedIn.

They, um, they can reach out to, uh, just info@acreativeads.com I'm I'm generally fairly accessible. Uh, If they want to reach, if they want to connect with me on LinkedIn as well. So those are, those are generally the same, uh, are the best ways to, to find out what's going on with, uh, with the platform. We'll make sure to link out to everything in the description, in the show notes.

And before we go, this is a new segment inspired, but we're going to call it Carlos questions from Carlos, a man Carlos Zavala over at, in motion. He said, Tim, can you start asking your guests? So Mike core question. So if you're down Craig, you're going to be the first one. I like it. All right. If you weren't doing out of home, if you were not in the out-of-home space, what would you be doing?

Uh, I would like to be. Wow. I would be hopefully be the USC football coach. I, that sounds pretty cool to me. You know, I w well, no, I would be the USC athletic director and would, would hire urban Meyer done whenever we could start a petition. That's what I would do. I like it. I like it. It's an honest answer.

If you could have a billboard anywhere of any type, what would it say? And what would it be?

Carlos Carlos is bringing the heat, man, just bringing the heat heat. Not a lot of people have a fast ball like that. Carlos, um, you know, it would be, it would be, um, It would be, uh, the, the 4 0 5 and, and Rosecrans, right. Where, um, right where I put right where, right where I get on the freeway, near my house and where my family does.

And it would say, I love you to my wife, strong man, strong.

Cool. And, you know, as I'm looking at the other two questions, it kind of covered it throughout, uh, throughout the episode. So I'll leave you with this one. This is the softball, any books or podcasts that you would personally recommend? It doesn't have to be out of home related. Anything that, that you do to keep your mind sharp.


So the art of not giving a F as a, as a, as a good one. Um, yes. And you know, I'm, you know, I'm listening to, uh, the road less traveled right now, interest that you say, like an audio book. Yes. Very cool. So those are those that, that one's a little, a little more spiritual. Um, but then there's, you know, there's always, yeah, it's the art of not giving up, pull up polar opposites, right?

I mean, you know, maybe, maybe the art is not giving an F is the road less traveled and there's something in that for everyone. Craig, this has been for me a really helpful education, more high level on a lot of the things that go on behind the scenes of programs. So for that, thank you so much, man. Thanks for being.

Thanks for having me. Absolutely. This has been helpful to you. I encourage you to share it with your network as always click the subscribe button down below in the corner. And if you want to get your very own out of home swag, you can check out O H swag.com and don't forget to use promo code insider for 10% off your first purchase.